It has always been an animal friendly country. But could Britain be the world’s first fur free nation?
While other European nations have embedded bullfighting, fur wearing and foie gras in their cultures, Britain has long proven itself to be a far more pro-animal country. For example, in 1998, It was one of the first countries in the world to ban animal testing of cosmetics. Come 2015, animal testing of household cleaners was also banned. The British public have let it be known loud and clear that they abhor that most barbaric of aristocratic sports, fox hunting, and had that banned in 2005. And now, could Britain become the first fur free country?
Indeed, Queen Elizabeth II herself recently pledged that she will be going fur-free. So have top department stores in the nation, like Selfridges and House of Fraser, which has undergone a humbling transformation in response to recent protests and campaigns against furry fashions; Selfridges has also banned exotic animal skins from its shelves.
The Public Won’t Have It
Fur farming as an industry has been banned in the UK since 2000, although imports of animal fur from other fur-producing countries such as Finland, Poland and even China (where much fur is actually from dogs and cats) are still allowed, and the British public is not happy, to say the least.
The British distaste for fur was sharply felt at the House of Fraser recently. The British department store had banned fur over a decade ago, but when Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley bought the retailer last year, he reversed the decision. This winter, House of Fraser displayed fur garments in their shop that were lined with wild coyote fur, factory-farmed rabbit and raccoon fur, dog fur from China, and fox fur. This was met with immediate and adamant protests. According to a statement by the UK Executive Director of Humane Society International, Claire Bass:
“Mike Ashley has been hit by a tsunami of public protest, with thousands of messages from shoppers shocked and appalled to see this respected high street store turned into a House of Horrors, selling fur from factory-farmed rabbits, foxes and raccoon dogs as well as coyotes trapped and shot in the wild.
British shoppers have sent the message loud and clear that fur is bad for business, and has no place on the British high street. We urge House of Fraser to publicly reinstate and uphold its long-standing fur-free policy.”
Several British celebrities including actors, including the likes of Ricky Gervais, Paloma Faith and Alesha Dixon stood up for animal rights alongside PETA and the Humane Society. The celebrities were featured wearing #FurFreeBritain T-shirts and the movement caught fire. Increasing numbers of celebrities have posted selfies and statements in solidarity under the campaign’s hashtag throughout social media outlets.
As a result, fur is no longer available on any House of Fraser shelf or website. But this explosive campaign has also forced retailers in other countries to reconsider their use of fur in fashion as well.
In France, for example, major labels Sandro, Maje, and Claudie Pierlot (owned by the SMCP group) declared that they will no longer include any fur in their collections. The SMCP joins a growing guild of highly respected and influential designers and labels who have pledged their allegiance to fur free fashion.
Not Yet Global
The controversy over whether or not to use fur has been met with a different perspective elsewhere. The Fur Council of Canada (FCC), for example, maintains that: “Fur is a natural, sustainable, renewable resource. We only use part of what nature produces each year without depleting wildlife populations or damaging natural habitats that sustain them. The goal is to maintain long-term ecological balance.” The Council asserts on their webpage that sustainability, balance, and respect for the land and the creatures who inhabit it are of the utmost importance to the council. This pledge, however, is assured within the boundaries of Canada alone.
The British Fur Trade Association (BFTA) has a similar perspective. The BFTA will launch a new standard of labelling known as the ‘FURMARK’ label in 2020. This is to be an international mark that guarantees all their fur was created with animal welfare and environmental standards in mind. They insist that each stage of the production process of any fur carrying this label meets strict requirements that reflect various globally recognised animal welfare and sustainability standards.
The Reality Is: Fur Is Always Cruel
Many of these points, while perhaps reasonable in their own right, prove problematic in reality. No matter what the likes of the BFTA would like you to believe, the truth is that even despite regulations, most fur farms continue to keep animals in small battery cages side by side, and the probability of seeing fur from a hospitable farm where standards are high and people are held accountable on the racks of major retail stores is very slim.
In the same way, hunting regulations and wildlife protection laws are unfortunately lacking in many areas around the world. Habitat informed hunting for wild caught animals likely resembles something more akin to poaching in these places where ignorance, greed, or desperation are what drives the industry, and let’s not forget that most wild-trapped animals suffer terribly, often chewing off their own foot to escape the traps. Moreover, some traps kill animals needlessly: it’s estimated that between 21% and 69% of animals trapped in snares are discarded since they are not desirable to the fur industry.
The regulations for processing animal furs also varies widely. The integrity that the FCC holds itself to and the requirements for transparency guaranteed by the BFTA’s future FURMARK label are neither mandatory nor enforced internationally, which means it’s very likely that toxic chemicals and dyes will be used to preserve and color the fur.
In all likelihood, the fur you buy will have been sourced from large scale fur farm productions overseas where the animals’ welfare cannot be guaranteed. And more often than you’d think, cheaper furs are actually sourced from dogs and cats in China. In short, fur is cruel. And in short, if you wear fur, you are supporting animal cruelty. What kind of person wants to do that?
Cruelty Free British Style
If you really love the look of fur, of course there are now plenty of faux fur options. While yes, it’s true that loads of fake fur is made from nasty acrylic and polyester that takes around 400+ years to decompose, the same is true for chemically treated leather and furs. Any arguments that leather and fur are more ‘eco friendly options’ are generally untrue, since over 80% of all animal skins used for commercial purposes are preserved using the chrome tanning method, which involves chromium sulfate and other chromium salts. There are serious environmental concerns with this tanning method, as chromium is a toxic heavy metal.
The Brits know that faux fur IS absolutely the more ecological choice – when it’s made from sustainable materials. So no wonder more and more British brands are using eco-friendly materials to create their faux furs.
It’s heartening to know that some US cities like Los Angeles have banned fur, and the list of cities and designers in support of cruelty free fashion is growing worldwide. It seems the UK may not be the world’s first Fur Free Nation yet, but it’s definitely a world leader in this respect – and we hope its influence spreads further.
All images: PETA